More than 300,000 students have returned to classrooms across the country for the first time since December after pandemic restrictions were lifted.
After 33 lost school days, 60,000 Leaving Cert Students and another 260,000 junior primary have returned to in-person learning.
Special needs schools, having returned on a limited basis two weeks ago, are returning to full capacity on Monday.
Ronan Mac Grianna, a principal at Scoil Naomh Lorcan in Omeath, Co Louth said his pupils were overjoyed to be back.
He told the PA news agency: “When the children arrived, the vast majority of them literally ran up the hill to the school here. Our school is located on a hill overlooking Carlingford Lough here, and they just literally ran up.
“Everyone’s very happy, everyone’s delighted. It’s joy, even more so than relief. I’d say there’s a lot of relief among parents though.”
Not only the students, but also teachers and staff are happy to be back in the classroom again, Mr Mac Grianna said.
“For myself personally, the reason you go into teaching is for the human interaction every day. That face-to-face contact and communication and interaction, that’s a huge part of teaching,” he said.
“I definitely didn’t go into teaching to sit doing Zoom lessons all the time. It’s draining, it’s very difficult to know if you have full engagement with everybody.
“I know from speaking to the rest of the staff, they all feel the same as well. We have five teaching staff, three SNAs and a secretary here. Everybody’s delighted to be back.”
He added: “The school closures I’m sure has been most challenging for families, but it’s been challenging for teachers too. Trying to know that you’re doing everything you can for the children.”
Mr Mac Grianna said that while there had been challenges with new procedures, parents and teachers worked together to ensure the smooth return to the classroom.
He said: “We have a great relationship with the parents and the wider school community. People are more than happy to do what it takes.
“We do try to have very good relationships with the parents and it means then when anything needs doing, they work with us. And it’s great to have that support.”
In a video posted to her Twitter account, Education Minister Norma Foley wished students and teachers well on their return to the classroom.
She added: “A particular word of thanks and gratitude to all the staff in our schools, who have worked so hard throughout lockdown, and indeed are working hard to ensure that everything is in place for you today and over the next couple of months. Thank you and well done to all of you.
“And again as I conclude, just to remind you all, we’re asking you all very specially not to congregate at school gates. To remember to do what we need to do, wash our hands, keep our distance and stay safe.”
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said vigilance will be required by all to ensure that the phased return to school students is safe and sustainable.
General secretary Micheal Gillespie said: “We have always stated that the preference of our members is a return to face-to-face teaching and learning in safe working environments.
“As the phased return to schools continues, there is understandable anxiety among all in school communities, particularly given concerns around new strains of the virus.
“At a national level, the situation must be kept under constant and forensic review, while adherence to the measures that protect the health and safety of students, staff and their families must be the key priority in every school.
“It is essential that social distancing measures be adhered to, and the additional space in school premises as a result of the phased return allows the opportunity to further enhance this critical measure.”